What you need to know
Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery involving the lower extremities.
Most podiatrists work in offices of podiatry, either on their own or with other podiatrists. Some work in group practices with other physicians or specialists. Others work in private and public hospitals, in outpatient care centers, or for the government.
Some of the things podiatrists might do:
- Assess the condition of a patient’s feet, ankles, or lower legs by reviewing the patient’s medical history, listening to his or her concerns, and performing a physical examination
- Diagnose foot, ankle, and lower leg problems through physical exams, x rays, medical laboratory tests, and other methods
- Provide treatment for foot, ankle, and lower leg ailments, such as prescribing special shoe inserts (orthotics) to improve a patient’s mobility
- Perform foot and ankle surgeries, such as removing bone spurs, fracture repairs, and correcting other foot and ankle deformities
- Advise and instruct patients on foot and ankle care and on general wellness techniques
- Prescribe medications
- Coordinate patient care with other physicians
- Refer patients to other physicians or specialists if they detect larger health problems, such as diabetes or vascular disease
- Conduct research, read journals, and attend conferences to keep up with advances in podiatric medicine and surgery
- Compassion. Since podiatrists provide care for patients who may be in pain, they must treat patients with compassion and understanding.
- Critical-thinking skills. Podiatrists must have a sharp, analytical mind to correctly diagnose a patient and determine the best course of treatment.
- Detail oriented. To provide safe, effective healthcare, a podiatrist should be detail oriented. For example, a podiatrist must pay attention to a patient’s medical history as well as current conditions when diagnosing a problem.
- Interpersonal skills. Because podiatrists spend much of their time interacting with patients, they should listen well and communicate effectively. For example, they should be able to tell a patient who is slated to undergo surgery what to expect and calm his or her fears.
The average pay for podiatrists in the United States ranges from $52,060 to more than $208,000 as of May 2018.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of podiatrists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.
Continued growth in the demand for medical and surgical care of the foot and ankle will stem from the aging population. Podiatrists will also be needed to treat patients with foot and ankle conditions caused by chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity.
Podiatrists must have a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from an accredited college of podiatric medicine. A DPM degree program takes 4 years to complete. In 2017, there were 9 colleges of podiatric medicine accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education.
Admission to podiatric medicine programs requires at least 3 years of undergraduate education, including specific courses in laboratory sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as general coursework in subjects such as English. In practice, nearly all prospective podiatrists earn a bachelor’s degree before attending a college of podiatric medicine. Admission to DPM programs requires taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).